From 11 private newspapers in the country, the number has dropped down to six.
The newspapers that closed shop are Bhutan Observer, Druk Neytshuel, Bhutan Youth, Druk Melong and Druk Yoedzer while the rest are barely surviving. Factors like digitalization and lack of advertisements from the government and other sources have been cited as the reasons for the death of private media.
Business Bhutan spoke to a couple of people to find out what interventions could be initiated to save private media from dying.
Needrup Zangpo, Executive Director of Bhutan Media Foundation (BMF) said there is no immediate and foolproof answer to the fate of unsustainable private media however; he said that the future of all the media, including the private media, is going online. “Therefore, BMF is exploring various ways to support the private media, including their transition online. In the meanwhile, we are expecting some support from the government towards this end,” he said.
Dorji Wangchuk, a veteran journalist and PhD Fellow at the University of Macau whose research focus includes mainstream and social media in Bhutan said, “if we are a building a vibrant democracy, there is no way we can build one with a weak independent media. If we can understand this simple logic, I see some hope.”
Sonam Dema, currently working with BBS and who has worked with private media before joining her current post said, “As a former print journalist, I have learned that print media in Bhutan has most potential to cover investigative stories which broadcast media are not able to do. So, it is crucial to save private media, especially, print media in Bhutan. Sadly, newspapers have emerged and died. Today, most of the international newspaper companies worldwide are also opting for web or social media for sharing their news. Perhaps, private print media could also opt for selling electronic-paper or PDF version of their issues.”
She said government support is essential for survival of print media. And perhaps, government subscribing to e-papers from private media would help retain print media in Bhutan.
On June 21, 2017, then the Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay officially launched the electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) system and he mentioned that the e-GP system cannot be optional but that it should be mandatory for procurement of goods, works and services across the government agencies starting January, 2018.
The e-GP System of the government facilitates all procuring agencies to publish tenders, corrigendum and notification of contract award. The primary objective of this portal is to provide a single point access to the information on procurements made across various procuring agencies.
Because of e-GP private media houses have been affected in terms of advertisements and also the major chunk of government advertisements goes to the government owned media.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu